On the safe side: Tesla removes autopilot from Hong Kong cars to keep within law

But only a limited number of the US manufacturer's 2,000 vehicles are affected by the news

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 November, 2015, 1:59pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 March, 2016, 5:11pm

US-based electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla has disabled an unapproved autopilot function for Hong Kong drivers upon legal concerns that users will be committing an offence.

The function was among driver-assisted features Tesla rolled out worldwide last month that allowed its model S cars to automatically change lanes and speeds, steer within lanes and park with the help of radar, cameras and ultrasonic sensors.

While the city’s Transport Department  has approved the autoparking capability, it has not endorsed the other two functions.


READ MORE: Hong Kong drivers using new Tesla autopilot software warned they are ‘committing an offence’

“To ensure we comply with Hong Kong regulations, we will be temporarily turning off these two functions on all model S [cars] in Hong Kong effective immediately,” Tesla announced on Tuesday evening.

Earlier, the firm launched its update without government consent, prompting the department to say all “software updates that would affect prevailing driving functions” must be approved.

That meant drivers previously using the unapproved functions could be prosecuted.

READ MORE: ‘Hands-free’ driving in Hong Kong: Tesla begins road-testing ‘autopilot’ mode, government yet to approve, SCMP takes it for a spin

Tesla owner Locky Law, who represented Charged Hong Kong, a group promoting electric cars, expressed disappointment at the loss of the autosteer function but saw a silver lining.

“Now that Tesla has disabled these two functions, I hope this would mean they can roll out version 7.0 to all owners so everyone can drive more safely,” Law said.

Carmakers such as Ford and Mercedes-Benz had been helping drivers avoid hazards with their emergency braking and side collision warnings.

“Drivers can really get distracted and these features can help them,” Tesla driver Raymond Wu Hung-yip said. “I hope the department can think carefully and approve the features.”

Hong Kong has at least 2,000 Tesla cars, but only a limited number of the model S are compatible with the autopilot. 

WATCH: Can Tesla's new 'autopilot' system work in crowded Hong Kong? The South China Morning Post takes it for a test drive